US Fighter Shoots Down Friendly

Over at War is Boring, David Axe, a civilian war correspondent, notes the unique history of a particular F-15E Strike Eagle.  The fighter has a star and a Sidewinder stamped on its side, indicating two very unique air-to-air kills.

The star is from a kill in Operation Desert Storm.  Nearly 20 years ago, that aircraft dropped a bomb on an airborne helicopter in Iraq.

The Sidewinder is from an unofficially reported shootdown of a friendly Reaper UAV just last month.  According to Aviation Week (sometimes called “Aviation Leakfor its tendency to publish less-than-public information) and repeated in Popular Science, an MQ-9 Reaper went ‘rogue,’ in a manner of speaking.  It lost communications with its ground station, which should have caused it to enter an emergency flight profile, more than likely forcing it to return to base.  However, this UAV apparently flew toward the Afghan border, and the articles indicate that US forces opted to shoot it down rather than let it depart Afghanistan on its own.

One blog author wondered aloud what the Reaper would have done if left to its own devices.  Visions of Terminator notwithstanding, it likely would have flown straight until it ran out of gas and crashed, assuming it never regained its link and was recovered.

That F-15E fighter pilot and his WSO certainly have a tale to tell (and they may even drink free courtesy of fellow fighter pilots who hold no love for UAVs), assuming the military ever confirms (or declassifies) the story.

The Popular Science article used a quotable caption:

Human pilots: still good for shooting down wayward unmanned aerial systems.